The Artist is no other than he who unlearns what he has learned, in order to know himself .
While writing full-time for almost three years now, I have spent a lot more time looking inwards (and would continue to do so) than I did before. When I reflect on myself, I see how imperfect I am. With this self-knowledge, I am able to look outwards with more compassion. I have also realized that life, though, complex, is also simple. It all depends on how we look at things.
These growing insights into the external and internal world lay the foundation of my personal growth and creativity, both of which, in turn, help me understand more. (Update May 2022: I’ve been reflecting inwards for close to five years now. And I’m updating this list of things I have learned as per my current understanding.)
Learning paves way for more learning.
In this piece on the most important lessons in life, I share everything I have learned so far. I have penned down the ways that help me simplify things. I believe that all that is important must have made itself available to my mind and heart while I’m writing the article. And if I have missed something, either I do not care about it enough or the learning will appear in some form later.
This collection of lessons is more a cheat sheet for me and less a guide for a reader looking for life’s wisdom. But I do hope I have shared experiences that will help one sail along this immense sea of life with a bit more ease.
This list of life learnings is long with sections randomly arranged. If you like the article, consider bookmarking it to return to it later at a time of need.
While you are here, also consider checking out my collection of deep meaningful quotes on life. I have put these together from years of reading.
By Caspar David Friedrich / Public domain
Things I Have Learned So Far
Things I’ve Learned About Work, Skills, and Perseverance
Quoting Galib, Bukowski, or Edison doesn’t make anyone a poet, a writer, or a visionary. Ideas hit hard like a hailstorm if we live a dedicated life. 1
You can only shift the world right now, not in five minutes. 4
Every day, the smallest of the things that you do make up who you are and what you would become. 4
The quality of the 10,000 hours spent to build any skill is significant. The number of hours I sit on the chair to write is important, but the number of hours I don’t know if I was on the chair is even more important. Don’t pretend, do. 5
The sum of many small things might not be greater than one big one, but several intangible forces start working in your favor when you are consistent. 6
Life Lessons on Honesty.
Your honesty aids you more than it benefits anyone else. 7
Honesty is a freely-flowing, private, invincible savior. 8
Lessons from Life on Temperament and Happiness
A good life is not defined by work or relationships. The size of your bungalow or the freshness of the kingfish at dinner doesn’t quantify happiness either. Though these things make up our lives, affect our mood, and make us more comfortable, none of these alone or together can keep us happy and fulfilled. 9
Our temperament decides if we would live a good life filled with happiness. Temperament is the mesh that holds everything together. 10
If you get upset at small things, you will stay unhappy and guilt-prone. 11
Having an angry temperament doesn’t make you a bad person. You are scared. You worry if like the last time you will miss this time, too. You are only trying to get the best for yourself. 12
You can always improve your nature but you will have to lift heavier weights¹ than you might pick up in the gym. 13
Lessons I’ve Learned About Work.
After work, we don’t migrate to a new realm of personal life. We just get access to a more freely flowing time. It is the same world of our thoughts and interests, unless we hate our work. 14
The more fluidly work and personal life flow into each other, the easier it is. And then one day you can’t tell the difference between which is which. 15
Passion is the remedy for some people. 17 (I quit my job to become a writer.)
In the absence of passion, there is still always something that you can be good at. Find it. 18
Lessons on Individuality.
Practice abstinence from following people unless you want to always walk behind. 19
Learnings on Performance.
How you do one thing is how you do everything. 20
How to know if you are doing the best? A constant judgment of your choices or results would leave you more confused than a cat looking at her reflection. We just work with compassion, dedication, and patience. We maneuver our path every time we realize we have made a mistake. Our efforts will aggregate over time. 21
You can always do better, but you don’t know how, yet. 22
Valuable Lessons on Past.
Rueing over a mistake is worse than trying to unfry the salmon. 23
You shouldn’t care about that Friday in 2014 when your ex-boyfriend threw your cashmere sweater out of the balcony. You would lie to yourself to fill the gap in memories³ and would hurt yourself by thinking imaginary things that are not winning you the best humor book author award either. 24
Past is an eerie glow of a dead star, and your reality is that milky moon up in the sky today. 25
The more you think about the past, the more habitual you become of thinking about the past — you justify your actions and life so far but every time you feel you are done you find more things to defend. You increase your reasons to worry rather than reducing them, ironically. Now you are watching the past from behind a hazy screen while your present is hazing away, too. 26
Letting go is the key to fulfillment. 27
Biggest Lessons in Life on The Smallest Things.
Small things are small. To keep them small you will have to stop obsessing over them. 28
Removing the phrase “it wasn’t fair” from your vocabulary can take you a long way. 29 (and so will these 13 other things.)
Don’t be burdened by things that don’t seem to go your way. Things happen on their own accord, and we cannot tell what would do us good or what would do us bad. 30
You start to forget who you were once upon a time. But if you remind yourself of your hard times (or as they say keep those old clothes hidden in the back of the closet), it would be easier for you to stay kind and compassionate. 31
The easier you get bothered, the more you will be teased (by friends and life). 32
What I Learned About Happiness.
The world doesn’t care if you are in a bad mood or a good one. 33
No one is responsible for your happiness. 34
Self-pitying people always create a reason to pity themselves. You are not a reason for anyone’s unhappiness or the heart attacks they tell you they might get. 35
On People and Human Condition
If you want people to care about you, you care about them, first. 36
People are waiting for you to cheer up so they can laugh with you. 37
Instead of defending yourself, hit a joke with another joke. Laugh it away. Keep it light. 38
People will always tell you to do what they think is right. And we all believe we are right. 39
The more you try to please people, the more difficult it becomes to appease them. 40
People accept criticism better once they have been appreciated. 41
People like you if you put yourself below them. Put yourself on a lower pedestal a few times. But don’t do it all the time else you will find yourself crawling on the grass. 42
People will like you more if you let go of small things. 43
If you show people you understand where they are coming from and you are like them, too, you have them. 44
The day you stand up to lead, people will follow you. But they will only continue following you if you bring conviction and relentlessness. 45
Everyone – even the richest and most popular people – get scared of missing out. Everyone gets jealous. 46
Christian Satin / CC0
Lessons Taught By Life On Worry, Productivity, and Fun.
Worry is constipation for the mind. 47
We always overestimate the effort or pain required to finish a task. When the time comes, we don’t quantify the effort. We want the thing to get over. Later on, we always feel the job wasn’t that hard or it was different from how we had imagined it. 48
Bad days won’t leave us alone. Even those of us who are playing PubG on Google Pixel or binge-watching Netflix don’t have all days bright. 49
Instead of brooding on bad days, do something you enjoy, whatever gives you pleasure or brings clarity. Get to your deliverables when you stop hurting. Now you don’t have a bad day but a few relaxing hours. 50
We are always worrying in our imagination because most of the things we fret about don’t ever happen. And what we never thought, happens. So the best is to do the best we can in everything, have a backup plan in case something doesn’t go right, and stop thinking. 51
Learnings on Fun.
Sometimes doing nothing and watching squirrels frolicking around should be the essence of the day. 53
Don’t play to work better — play to play. 54
Enjoyment doesn’t mean instant gratification all the time — we don’t need to grin every second, but the idea is not to cry to sleep every day either. 55
Instant gratification does refill our willpower. Now manipulate the willpower to do whatever you have to do. 56
Life Wisdom on Communication
Language needs to be changed according to the companion like one changes socks as per the wind of the day. 57
On Seriousness versus Frolic
You would not only alienate yourself from others by being too solemn, but you can also miss out on intersecting with the free wavelengths of life. 59
Be sincere, not serious. 60
Lesson on Knowledge.
If you know a little bit about everything, you are better placed than a lot of people. 61
The easiest way to learn a lot about a lot of things is by reading books. 62
Don’t learn to be better than others. Learn to understand better. 63
Meaningful Lessons on Money
Money can’t buy happiness, wisdom, well-being, relationships, or anything else valuable. But no money buys unhappiness. 64
You are precious if you are not running behind money like everyone else. If you are devoted, money will follow you. 65
Money can buy flight tickets to Colombia and peri-peri french fries and these come close to happiness on some days. 66
Lifelong Lessons on Kindness.
Every act of kindness has the power to multiply like water hyacinth. 67
Kindness flows back. 68
Being kind sucks sometimes. But you do it despite. 69
You shouldn’t depend on your partner to do all the benevolent deeds. Keep your flame of compassion and kindness ablaze. 70
Things That I Have Learned on Care, Writing, Art, and Performance.
Everyone can write. But you can only write well about the things you care about. 71
A lot of things can only be done well if we care. 72
Don’t shun something you aren’t proud of. See how you can improve. And that might make all the difference. 73
Maybe it wasn’t the right time for that idea. Try it later. 74
Believing in a secret ingredient can delay you from forming your magical formula. 75
You cannot be there before you are there. The process is the result. 76
Deep Life Lessons on Feelings and experiences.
You can never feel anyone else’s experience or happiness so don’t pity them or hate them. 79
Hard (But True) Lifelong Lessons on Jealousy, Comparison, and Imitation
Everyone is figuring out something. 80
The people you think got it easy never had it easy. Even a white, well-educated American male struggles in handling the human experience every day. And his life counts, too. 81
Comparing your life with someone else’s is like comparing the end of two books. 82
The more we try to become like someone, the further we go away from becoming ourselves. 83
Being different could be the way. 84
If you are doing something because others are doing it, then the only thing you are doing is copying. 85
You don’t have to avoid something because others are not doing it. 86
Learnings on Forgiveness.
You can forgive people or you can reproach them for hurting you — But it’s not about them anymore, it’s about you. 87
Instead of a reprimand, a gentle nudge in the right direction does more good. 88
Life Lessons Learnt on People, Dispositions, and Human Condition.
Experience helps but being a novice also gives the power to try. 89
People don’t mean everything they say. We shouldn’t take everything literally. 90
Not everything is about you. 91
Crime isn’t committed by bad people — crime is committed by people. We could have been one of those people if things didn’t work out for us the way they did. 92
Good looks leave a better first impression. Sorry, the world is biased. 93
Life Learnings About Friends.
Close friends can heal you faster than a cup of tea. Create healthy relationships for they carry you when you cannot walk. 94
Friends won’t wait for you eternally — their life goes on while you are busy creating yours. You can either be in both lives at the same time or you can see yourself disappearing slowly from their story. 95
Lessons on Doing One Thing at a Time.
Don’t try to do it all. 96
If you can’t resist doing it all — do it one at a time. 97
Multitask in things that aren’t that important. 98
Inspirational Lessons on Blogging and Art.
Blogging or writing or cartooning or doodling or Youtubing comes from a space within. Creating is not about how much you know, it is about how less you know and how curious you are. 99
No two blogs can be the same — the people behind them are driven by different things. 100
A dilettante can’t win long-term by pretending. 101
The Not-So-Obvious Things Learned in Life.
If you are thinking about the same problems over and over (the dictionary of Obscure Sorrows describes this weariness with the same old issues as Altschmerz) it doesn’t mean that you haven’t made any progress. Progress reflects in how you struggle with those problems. 102
Don’t worry about not knowing the rules of art as long as you know about the rules of life. They interchange, by the way. 103
Life Learnings on Love.
There are fewer things better than love. Let yourself love. 104
Love will come and go but don’t forget to work on yourself while you are floating in the pool of love. Else you will sink soon. 105
Valuable Life Lessons on Overthinking.
If you overbear yourself with the same thoughts, you would end up tumbling. 107
Learnings on Work, Monotony, Skills, and Fun.
This constant tug of war between work and recreation cannot be always justified by spending more time at work — it can be only pacified by being more aware while working. 108
Doing laundry is not a waste of time. If we can have fun doing our domestic chores, we have learned the way to live. 109 (and other ideas for our 30s.)
Lessons on What Matters.
You may forget high school science. But high school science does make adult life better. 110
Keep your basics right. Visit the dentist. Get that check-up done. Now shift to autopilot and free yourself for other stuff. 111
Getting married or having a baby isn’t like switching on the television every night. These are personal decisions, despite what the world tells you. 112
Television is designed to engage you in brainless activities. Unhook and pick a book or play cards with friends, you will be more fulfilled. 113
Life Lessons on Habits.
Habits can kill you or make you. Go back to the time when your mother used to discourage you from eating chocolate by telling you it was a bad habit. (no? So it was just me.) 118
Worrying about forming good habits is paradoxical. 114
Lessons on Things of Real Consequence.
Life could end anytime. But you live like it won’t, ever. And then it does. 115
People will judge you, but it has nothing to do with you. 116
Keeping a gun isn’t about personal protection. 117
Democracy is a pretense. 118
None of your relationships define you. 119
Banks never care about the customer. They only pretend to. Think for yourself. 120
You can feel lonely. 121
Parents are jealous of their children. Your life always seems easier than theirs. Don’t hold it against them. 122
Getting the best every time is only worth it if you are unaffected when you don’t get the best. Worrying over perfection is paradoxical. 123
If you can think about it, someone else can, too. If you feel it, someone else has felt it, too. What makes you different from others is what you do after. 124
Life isn’t like a book, but more like concentric circles. 125
Art is larger than life because it creates life. 126
A day is made up of good times, okay times, and bad times. 127
Everyday/sunrise/sunset is different from the previous one, even though sometimes it feels similar. 128
Nothing can be resolved by reading an article about it. Practice will solve the problem. 129
Stubborn, egotistic, and relentless avant-garde people shift the world. 130
You like to hide things deep inside. Then you think about those things to comfort yourself in the hour of need, and that is okay. 131
You would feel like hurting people at times. Especially if they are more successful or more beautiful or they have hurt you before. But don’t do it. 132
Lessons on Learning.
Ethnolinguistics should be a subject in school. So should be emotional intelligence, personal growth, sex education, writing, arts, speech, gender identity, international relations, and communication skills. If they are not, study them on your own. 133
Studying a subject meticulously doesn’t take the poetry out of it. You would know the concepts and patterns and will be able to use them at will. 134
Learnings on Fulfillment.
Watching that molten sunset could be one of the most fulfilling things of the day. 135
The Most Important Lesson of My Life So Far.
Don’t do something just because someone else asked you to do it. Run on reason. 136
Lessons on What Matters.
You are what you think. Think right. 137
Creativity is mostly about living fully, laughing, playing, running around, crying, talking, and meeting friends. Then comes hard repetition. 138
When you don’t understand something, pause. Or restart. 139
What I Have Learned So Far from Traveling Solo.
You don’t need to justify why you want to travel alone. (the linked article is only an expression of how I feel when I travel and not a justification.) 140
The beginning of a solo trip is always a little scary. You feel the world is against you. You imagine that everyone is watching you or laughing at you because you are wandering alone. But if you let the fear go for a second and look up, you will see that people are minding their business and not staring at you. Trust the universe. 141
You would have to step out of your comfort zone if you want to grow. Travel is the means to this end. 142
Lessons on Things of Real Consequence.
Everyone gets scared. But despite your fear, walk, make a mistake, receive feedback with open arms, and do it again. Break that wall of fear brick by brick. Now you are free to face another fear. 144
You would never be able to win the approval of negative people, so the earlier you show them the way out, the less emotional baggage you will carry. 145
The show goes on. Participate. 146
Life Teachings on The Continuum of The World.
Everything is connected — the work we do, the way we treat people, the way they talk to us, the appreciation we get, the food we eat, the people we hang out with, the places we want to visit, the guilt we carry, and the memories we relish. Having disjoint expectations from each part of life doesn’t make sense. 147
The world is a continuum. The better we can interconnect ideas, the more easily we can float in life⁵. 148
Some of the Biggest Lessons I’ve Learned.
Only experience can tell if something will work. 149
You can’t win by always playing hard to get. 150
No one has the power to upset you unless you give it to them. 151
It is not always easy to differentiate the cause from the result. 152
You would forget that it was about having fun. Remind yourself frequently. 153
Our ideas, promotions, commitments, financial planning, and relationships all are there to make life better. So if something goes down, don’t despair: its presence was to keep you good, but its absence doesn’t mean hell. You can get anything as long as you can breathe peacefully. 154
Things always work out if you just hold on a little longer. But they may come to you in a different form from how you recognize them. 155
Intuition is the collective consciousness of the life we have lived so far. Don’t ignore it. 156
Any good service or product or writing or art starts with being about you but then it is all about the people. 157
To forgive someone might seem unfair to you, but when you forgive, you soak in peace — thus getting your fair share. 158
We always have an option. 159
Art breathes inside each one of us. 160
Smile for you feel how you act. 161
Don’t just respect someone for their age, respect wisdom and kindness, and all such noble dispositions. 162
Lessons on Learning and Unlearning
There is art in science and science in art. Once you connect the two, you have found infinity. 163
To create, first, understand the rules. Then break them. 164
At some point, you start limiting yourself — maybe when your mother first said you can’t go out alone or when the teacher scolds you for trying to understand the basics rather than repeating her answer or when you see an advertisement for a fairness cream guaranteeing a better life. But the truth is inside the box of reason. Open it. 165
What about Noise?
The background noise sounds louder when you are having a hard time. 166
Life Lessons on Goals and Determination.
You can do anything that you set your mind to. 167
Without goals, you are as directionless as a sunflower is at night. 168
If you are ready to receive what comes along the way, you start moving in the direction of your goal little by little. 169
What Life Has Taught Me on Hard Days.
Don’t be scared to lose yourself, for you might be on the path of discovering yourself. 170
Think deep, not wide. 171
Most problems have simpler solutions. 172
Society is judgmental police. 173
Don’t let anyone else write your story. 174
Everything has an expiry date. 175
Sometimes you do your best work when you are tired — we would only make the effort to write that sentence if it is too good to let go. 176
Soak inspiration from the universe. 177
Words are wings. When not wings, they are swords. Choose your flights and battles wisely. 178
Your brain would expand into the time you give it to do something. Too less, and it hurries up. More, it stretches out. 179
When you feel angry or dejected, eat. Eventually, it is all about some curry and rice. 180
Walk on dewy mountain trails fringed by pine trees often. The joy is unbridled. 181
If you let go of boundaries set by others, you can tune into infinite wavelengths of freedom and choice. But be careful to not tune into noise again. 182
You need much less than you think you do. 183
Climbing stairs is always better than taking an elevator. Move your body as much as you reflex your brain so that you can climb that mountain when you want to. 184
Eventually, everything gets done. So instead of worrying, pause and breath frequently. Or kick a punching bag. Or restart your laptop to first get rid of those annoying notifications. Fix the basics. 185
The best way to live is to act as if no one is watching you. 186
We have time. We have strength. And then we have love.
If you see a longer piece of work taking time despite of your best efforts, stand in front of a mirror. 187
When you think you have given it all, the universe will ask for more, and you will find yourself giving it more. 188
Sometimes you get into something so deep that you forget that you are inside. Let love find you at those times. 189
Pál Szinyei Merse / Public domain
1. Benjamin Franklin made a record of his everyday routine and checked if he worked on his vices.
2. Daniel Gilbert says in his book Stumbling on Happiness— Feelings don’t just matter, they are what mattering means. Are war and peace more important for any reason other than the feelings they produce?
3. We don’t remember our past as well as we think. You will find enough proof of this in Daniel Gilbert’s monumental book Stumbling on Happiness.
4. If I could suggest one book to anyone, it would be The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
5. I don’t think I can put better than this: There are no separate systems. The world is a continuum. Where to draw a boundary around a system depends on the purpose of the discussion ― Donella H. Meadows
Like this post? Please pin it so that others can find it on Pinterest. Thank you.
What have you learned so far? Let me know in the comments.
Want similar inspiration and ideas in your inbox? Subscribe to my free weekly newsletter "Looking Inwards"!